In fact, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Department of Nutrition and Dietetics carried out a study six years ago of 12 schools in the Klang Valley and found that most of the food served in canteens were fried and oily.
Not much has improved since as a recent survey it conducted showed that canteens were still selling snacks or, "junkfood".Many schools were still selling nuggets, fried sausages and other fried food. But you know, these are what kids love.
And this is not peculiar to Malaysia. In Britain, most schools were found to be serving non-nutritious food to students. But, as with most kids, they love it.
In the 1985 School Canteen guidelines, nuggets, fried sausages, and nasi lemak were considered "appropriate".
The university's nutrition and dietetics department however, believed otherwise.
A revised set of guidelines came in force in 2008.
In August last year, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that most canteens were still selling unhealthy food and snacks that could influence the eating habits of children and contribute to rising childhood obesity in the country.
The NST report HERE.
From then, the issue of bad food in school canteens was linked to rising obesity among children,.
In April this year, the ministry announced proposed guidelines on food sold in school canteens following reports that they sell less than nutritious food.
These were to replace the existing ones. The new guidelines would take into account sugar, salt, fat and oil content.
Nasi lemak, fried rice and laksa are okay but can only be served twice a week.
(In school canteens, the portions (of nasi lemak, fried rice etc) are really small. )
This sparked a debate on the food children eat -- is the food they eat in that 20-minute recess at school responsible for their state of health, or the food they eat at home?
School or home? School or parents?
I find all this debate very stimulating and amusing too. All this blame game.
On Monday (April 25), the ministry announced the new guidelines.
Here's the thing -- nobody seems to see the importance of EXERCISE for children.
Let's face it, we used to eat oodles of noodles every day in school, and had those tuck shop snacks, keropok udang, Schweppes, Coke -- God knows what else.
And there was no obesity in school. I can't remember any fat school mate.
You know why? Because physical education and participation in sports were encouraged and played a major role in school.
I'm not encouraging eating unhealthy (overloaded with salt and sugar) snacks and fatty foods. But I'm looking at it from an overall perspective.
Being fit is not just about the food you eat. It is about exercising right.
I believe that we should encourage sports today, especially when the only limbs our kids are exercising are their fingers.
It's no nuclear science to figure out the cause of rising obesity among children.
Have a good look at our school curriculum and attitude of teachers to sports and physical education.
I'm not wrong to say that in many schools today, sports is low priority. Really really low.
It's a vicious cycle. You don't encourage them (to do sports, play games), they don't develop any interest and it becomes unimportant to them.
I remember that PE (physical education) was a big thing for us in school back then (in the 70s).
From the first week of school, we'd be preparing for our school sports. If you wanted to do long jump, then you'd be preparing for that event. And if you were a sprinter, you'd be preparing for that.
Also, you had to play at least two games. I never quite liked netball, but I played it anyway.
But I loved hockey and softball. There was a stint with soccer (yep, the only girls' football team in Selangor - possibly Malaysia).
And these activities were held on weekends. Attendance was compulsory. But that was irrelevant because games and sports were part of school life.
It was a state of mind.
So, you can cut this and that in the kids' diet but if they don't play games and exercise, they won't grow up healthy.
That is what is lacking in our schools -- priority on fitness.
So, really it's not just about food. You tackle obesity in kids the same way you tackle obesity in adults.
A combination of healthy eating and fitness routine.